The weekend series featuring the Toronto Blue Jays visiting the greatest stadium in sports, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, kicks off on Friday at 7:05. Finally, an evening game! Two, actually! The Blue Jays were projected to dwell at the bottom of the AL East by multiple sources, including the BSL Orioles team, but even the worst team in this division is a challenging opponent. After a slow start, it’d be nice for the Orioles to sweep this series and keep pace in the division during one of the most difficult stretches to open the season.
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Chris Tillman vs. Dustin McGowan
Orioles starter Chris “Thrillman” “#stafface” Tillman has been terrific to start the season, and he looks to continue that success against what can be on some nights a challenging lineup. Tillman has struggled at times with giving up the longball, something of a concern against a lineup including Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. If he can reduce the damage those two are able to do by steering clear of the home run or keeping men off base and limiting the value of their homers, he stands a good chance of reaching 2-0 in his first three starts of 2014.
Dustin McGowan has spent his career bouncing between Toronto’s minor league affiliates and the Major League roster. When in the majors, McGowan has been below average. He holds an ERA and an FIP over 4.00 and a K:BB ratio of about 2:1. The righty was rocked in his first start this season, lasting just 2.2 innings and giving up 4 runs on 8 hits. The heavy hitters on the Orioles roster can put a similar hurt on McGowan if they’re hot. Look for Chris Davis to knock his first round-tripper in this game.
Bud Norris vs. Drew Hutchison
In one start this season, Orioles pitcher Bud Norris made it through five innings while giving up a home run. He was at risk for being relegated to the bullpen if other Orioles starting hopefuls performed better in the spring, and his skills still might play better there when Gausman makes his way to the Majors. For now, Norris has the ability to keep the Orioles in the game against the Blue Jays, but Baltimore fans will likely not be treated to a clean game that looks under control.
Drew Hutchinson has started just 13 games at the Major League level, so this matchup could go one of two ways: the Orioles batters will either be baffled by an unknown pitcher or they’ll hit him hard and early. Hutchinson has given up 1.2 HR/9, so he’s not particularly prone to the longball, but batters like Davis and Cruz could end up feasting on the 23-year-old right hander. Hutchinson’s career ERA+ is a pedestrian 88. This should be a game that Chris Tillman and the Orioles can pencil in as a win.
Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Mark Buehrle
Using the Opening Day Orioles lineup against Lester, a left-handed pitcher, we can take a closer look at how the Orioles lineup might fare versus Mark Buehrle.
|Orioles Batter||wOBA vs. L||OPS vs. Buehrle|
|N. Markakis (L)||.288||1.211|
|J. Hardy (R)||.267||.455|
|A. Jones (R)||.311||1.049|
|C. Davis (L)||.245||1.324|
|N. Cruz (R)||.286||.067|
|M. Wieters (S)||.282||.874|
|D. Young (R)||.303||.982|
|R. Flaherty (L)||.200||ND|
|J. Schoop (R)||.222||.000|
The younger players on the team have limited history against Buehrle – Schoop has just one plate attempt against Buehrle and Flaherty has never seen him, for instance. One thing to take away from this data is that Delmon Young absolutely should be playing on Sunday, and may even be a better #2 hitter than Hardy in this matchup. The top of the lineup has the potential to do a lot of damage, but every third inning might be an easy one for Buehrle. The Orioles have, it seems, to have struggled against soft-tossing lefties at times. Buehrle can be very good, as evidenced by his perfect game, or quite hittable.
Steve Lombardozzi may be asked to play if Hardy’s back continues to give him a fit. Lombardozzi (S) holds a .249 wOBA against lefties and a .000 OPS versus Buehrle in just four plate attempts. Baltimore would obviously like to have Hardy back healthy, but his wOBA against lefties isn’t substantially better than Lombardozzi’s.
Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez is off to a rough start on the season, and despite the Blue Jays recent history, the batters he’ll face are dangerous. Toronto is stocked with power hitters. Jimenez needs to hit his spots or risk giving up big home runs with men on base.
The Orioles have a very real opportunity to sweep this series given the favorable matchups, and doing so would help to keep pace in the AL East.